There’s really only one band in my mind that has successfully bridged the gap between punk and heavy metal. Of course I’m talking about Justin Timberlake’s favorite band, Motörhead. Formed in the wake of Lemmy Kilmister’s ouster from space rockers Hawkwind, the band has churned out album after album of solid hard rock, punk, and metal anthems. Always changing, always the same – I believe John Peel said that in reference to The Fall, but he could have easily been talking about Motörhead. Members have come and gone over the last 40 years, and yet Lemmy is still standing (though drinking vodka instead of whiskey for health reasons). The current lineup of Lemmy on vocals & bass, Phil “Wizzo” Campbell on guitar, and Mikkey Dee on drums has been together since 1992, making it the longest latest incarnation of the band. Bad Magic is the band’s 22nd studio album and comes hot on the heels of 2013’s very strong Aftershock.
2015 has offered up a dizzying array of aging punks offering up fierce, life reaffirming records. The Sonics and Wire gave us masterful records that reminded us why we loved them and now we have a record from Motörhead that gives me the same feeling. All of the familiar elements are here – speed metal guitars, gruff vocals, fierce percussion – delivered with the urgency of punk rock. Quality wise, it is operating on a slightly higher plane than the last few records. For someone who be 70 before the year is out, Lemmy puts musicians 1/3 his age to shame. Maybe there is some validity to his philosophy of switching out whiskey & jack for orange juice & vodka? Whatever the case may be, I’ve given the album quite a few spins – er, shuffles – and I keep finding more to love.
The album kicks off with energetic punk-ish stomp, Victory Or Die. Blink and you might miss Lemmy’s words of wisdom “Life so often blows your candle out / Believe in what is right, what’s right for you tonight / Who knows what the fuck it’s all about”. Scorching guitar solo, drum break, some more barked vocals and we are done – and only 3 minutes into the album. Electricity is the 1st single from the record and it is a great choice – Lemmy spouting off about beliefs (or non beliefs) and tying everything back to the phrase “electricity deep in your soul”. Till The End isn’t just my favorite song on the record – it’s made it to my imaginary “Favorite Motörhead Songs” list. A slow burner of a song, it finds Lemmy & company offering up nuggets of wisdom that can only come from living a long a life. “There ain’t no rules to follow / You can’t predict tomorrow / I know just who my friends are / The rest can turn to stone” A song that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a record by The Rolling Stones. Speaking of which, the record closes with a stunning cover of the ‘Stones Sympathy for the Devil. Lemmy’s claimed that is better than the original – I’ll say that I like it quite a bit. The Motörhead update adds quite a bit of hard rock muscle without sacrificing any of the song’s mystique. Fun fact – Mick Jagger is only 3 years older than Lemmy Kilmister.
I hesitate to say that this is a good starting point for the Motörhead novice, but if you have all the classic albums from the late 70’s / early 80’s you will find much to enjoy here. Here’s hoping we have a few decades more of the great Lemmy Kilmister & Motörhead.
Verdict: Motörhead Classic
For Fans of: Saxon, Metallica, Sex Pistols, The Fall, The Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses
- Victory Or Die
- Thunder & Lightning
- Fire Storm Hotel
- Shoot Out All of Your Lights
- The Devil
- Evil Eye
- Teach Them How To Bleed
- Till The End
- Tell Me Who To Kill
- Choking On Your Screams
- When The Sky Comes Looking For You
- Sympathy For the Devil